Wood is a classic material, and always looks gorgeous - but how can we keep the wood in our homes looking fresh? Ralph Swan visited the show to tell us how to care for and clean wood flooring and furniture.
Flooring - most modern wood floors are pre-finished with a hard finish such as polyurethane, aluminum oxide, etc.
Older floors tend to have a renewable finish of wax or oil.
Most people are looking for low maintenance wood floors so go with a hard finish (although they have higher VOC - volatile organic compounds - levels.)
If you have an older floor and want to find out if it has a wax finish, drip a few drops of water on it. If you see white spotting usually have wax finish - buy a liquid floor wax or paste wax
Always do a test in a discrete area - see if it's working - closet
In general with a hard finish, you're looking for a cleaner that doesn't leave a slick and doesn't deteriorate - it doesn't matter if it's engineered wood or real.
A lot of people use water with a bit of vinegar to clean their wood floors but vinegar is an acid and water can leave spotting meaning you'll have to buff.
Some cleaners have alcohol in them, which helps with evaporation, but it can some times harm the finish - if it's already deteriorating it can to break it down further and/or cause lifting
Others cleaners contain ammonia, which cuts through oil and grime, but fine on glass but can cause more damage to the finishes or leave a residue behind (e.g. Windex or Fantastic)
Soap and water - You can use just warm water but afterwards you'll have to buff it, as it doesn't evaporate clean. Also doesn't have good cleaning ability - won't get things like scuff marks off. Soap leaves a film.
Don't use too much water as it can damage the wood.
For a hard finish you want the something that doesn't have alcohol or ammonia, evaporates quickly, and has the ability to clean without leaving a soap residue behind. Minwax has a product specifically for hardwood floors (Minwax Hardwood Floor Cleaner - Home Hardware has a similar house-brand product and there's another one called Zep). These products are sprayed on the floor directly out of the bottle. Wipe with damp mop (or sponge mop or one with a soft terrycloth cover). You don't use water.
Be mindful of water hardness - not such a concern in cities but can be in rural areas where water is harder.
Products such as Murphy Oil that have some penetrating oil are not appropriate for hard finish floors - it just sits on top of the finish. Murphy oil works fine when the oil can penetrate through into the wood.
For cleaning wax floors - water generally does the trick. Use a dampened cloth or mop - not much sticks to wax. Reapply wax every once in a while.
Furniture is affected by temperature change although today the humidity level in homes is more constant than in the past. A wood fire can take a lot of the moisture out of the air of the house - put a kettle on.
Modern furniture - Most modern furniture is finished with lacquer. To preserve finish you can cover with paste wax. Apply a thin application of paste wax and buff.
If you're buying something with a solid wood top make sure the underside of the piece has some kind of finish on it. Why? One of the biggest causes of damage is when something is put on a table that's moist or heated -the moisture is lifted up through the wood, trapped between the object and the wood and leaves marks.
If nothing underside - put any colour of stain on bottom - as long as it seals off the surface.
A lot of pre-finished furniture now has been sprayed with lacquer - lacquer dries fast (has a fast recoat time - five minutes) but it's not durable. To help protect the lacquer put on a couple of coats of paste wax (Howard's, Minwax) - there's both dark and a light waxes.
Take the time to look at the finish - if you see fine scratches you need to put more protection on - a couple of coats of paste wax should be put on a lacquer finish. Even a fine particle of dust under a plate can act like sandpaper.
How to remove light rings?
Sometimes you can remove them - not easy because it's moisture trapped inside the wood You take a little mineral oil - moisten a cloth - wipe down surface - sometimes the mark can be caused by residue on surface and reaction to object being placed on it. Nourish mineral oil into the finish - take a hair dryer see if you can get the moisture to dissipate. People have tried denture cream but that's not a good idea - an abrasive product will mar the surface. If you can't remove that moisture mark then refinish the tabletop itself.
If you don't see a finish on the surface - gloss or protective film - it probably had a penetrating oil finish - in the past linseed oil was often used which dry out over time.
Some modern pieces - imported from Asia have a matt finish composed of a penetrating oil with paste wax over it to give it a little more water repellant tendency. If finish looking tired - super fine steel wool, apply antique oil - outside piece - look for something that has a UV inhibitor.
If it's a dry looking piece of wood clean the surface with mineral spirits (paint thinner) Moisten the cloth, don't saturate it, then take a dry cloth and dry right away - will probably see a little dirt. This opens the pores. Sand lightly and apply antique oil. Can put an oil finish - brush it on, wipe off with a cloth. Penetrates the wood and bonds in the wood.
Add Paste wax - take a bit on a cloth and rub it in well. It gives the wood a more natural look - can use it on any oil or wax finished piece - just adds another layer of finish. Once paste wax goes into wood its impossible to get it out. Again you can put paste wax on a modern factory-finish lacquer finish - will help against general traffic. Don't over-apply the paste wax.
There's a lot of it on the market and it's common to see cracks. The wood is not dried to the degree of what our standards are. These woods are coming from a very moist climate. As the wood dries out it loses volume and cracks appear. Common to see that there's no finish on the underside - the doors don't close because they're warped. If it was purchased for a rustic look it might not be an issue. Most of this furniture has an oil finish on it. May have a lot of linseed oil - stays open for a longer period of time. They're good finishes but they do require more care.
How to care for it?
If drying out quickly and doesn't seem to have much of a finish on it it's probably a wax finish. To solve the problem - keep an eye on it and if looking dry moisturize with the oil finishes like an antique.
People think it's not such a high priority - but now people don't want to lose it - it's creative process to see an object come from being an old piece to a good piece.
Touch ups - hard wax pencil. Stain marker - for animal scratches - touch up tips. Min wax website - a full product list.
A seasoned interior and exterior wood finish expert, Ralph Swan has been working in the Do-It-Yourself industry for over 25 years, advising Canadians on wood maintenance and the many uses and techniques of wood finishing products. Ralph has enjoyed renovating his homes over the years. He now lives in a 1920s home he has turned into a Bed and Breakfast with his wife Gail. Ralph continually helps family and friends with their home projects and he is always willing to share is extensive experience and lend a helping hand.